Community Energy Resilience for COVID-19 Equitable Recovery and Wildfire Preparedness

Nonprofit Coalition Urges State Leaders to Prioritize Community Energy Resilience in COVID-19 Recovery


News for Immediate Release                                                                                 June 12, 2020

Contacts: Lillian Mirviss, Center for Sustainable Energy, 415-606-2025, Kurt Johnson, The Climate Center, 970-729-5051

(Sacramento, CA) — In a letter sent to Governor Newsom and state leaders, a coalition of 18 California nonprofit organizations urged state policymakers to emphasize community energy resilience as part of state strategy to address COVID-19 recovery and prepare for future power shutoffs.

“Community energy resilience provides a sustainable, local path to economic recovery and public health using clean, local energy resources and zero-emission vehicles that help California stay steadfast in its climate action plans and air quality goals while also preparing for public safety power shutoffs and outages,” said Raghav Murali, policy director at the Center for Sustainable Energy.

“There cannot be climate justice without racial justice,” said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. “Many communities of color are being hit much harder than others by COVID-19 and climate change. State policy needs to prioritize and fund initiatives for deploying resilient clean energy infrastructure in low-income and indigenous communities.”

The coalition is urging state leaders to:

  • Emphasize community-centric, local resilience planning
  • Leverage microgrids to serve critical facilities, support clean emergency back-up power, and address community resilience needs
  • Commit to California’s clean transportation transition to reduce the state’s largest source of greenhouse gases

Below is a copy of the Coalition letter.

About The Climate Center

The Climate Center is a 501(c)(3) organization working to enact rapid decarbonization policies that put California on track to reverse the climate crisis, through net-zero emissions, carbon- sequestration, and resilient communities. The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program is working to create a new electricity system for California that is clean, affordable, resilient, equitable and safe.

About The Center for Sustainable Energy

The Center for Sustainable Energy® (CSE) is a nonprofit offering clean energy program administration and technical advisory services. With the experience and streamlined efficiency of a for-profit operation, CSE leads with the passion and heart of a nonprofit. We work nationwide with energy policymakers, regulators, public agencies, businesses and others as an expert implementation partner and trusted resource.

About The Clean Coalition

The Clean Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a modern grid through technical, policy, and project development expertise. We drive policy innovations and establish market mechanisms to proliferate distributed energy resources (DER), and through our Community Microgrid Initiative we create near-term deployment opportunities for DER.

About Vote Solar

Vote Solar is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that advocates for state policies and programs needed to transform our electric system with clean energy. Since 2002, Vote Solar has been working to expand solar access for all consumers, particularly those who have been disadvantaged in the past.

About The Microgrid Resources Coalition

The Microgrid Resources Coalition (MRC) is a non-profit organization comprised of owners, operators, developers, suppliers and investors in the microgrid industry working together to advocate for policies and regulations that support microgrid deployment. The MRC promotes widespread implementation of microgrids through laws, regulations, and tariffs that support microgrid access to the market, compensation for services, and a level playing field for deployment and operation.

Re: Community Energy Resilience for COVID-19 Equitable Recovery and Wildfire Preparedness

Dear Ms. O’Leary and Mr. Steyer:

First and foremost, thank you for your leadership in a time of extreme uncertainty for Californians. California is proving that it will emphasize supporting its residents, both economically and through public health and safety, now more than ever.

We are a coalition of mission-driven nonprofits that focus on decarbonization and accelerating a just transition to clean energy. In this letter, we offer solutions for preparing California for wildfires and climate change while creating pathways to economic recovery and sustainable public health.  We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the uprisings happening across the State and the nation. Our coalition recognizes the systemic racism that is plaguing our society, and our sector has not been immune to this. With COVID-19 disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities, especially those living in areas burdened by higher levels of air pollution, we clean energy advocates and industry leaders vow to do our part to address and remedy injustices through actions that are equitable, respect the lived experience of communities of color, and are led by the input from these communities.

As near-term economic recovery becomes front and center for policymakers, the State must also contend with the imminent threat coming this summer: wildfires. Not only will wildfires worsen air quality, which may in turn increase the risk stemming from COVID-19, but they will also aggravate the State’s existing economic and climate-related challenges. It is vital that the State protect the environmental, equity, and resilience gains that we have made and ensure that future economic stimulus rebuilds California in the right direction to meet our climate and clean air goals, particularly in disadvantaged and low-income communities of color, as well as tribal communities. To help California simultaneously address COVID-19 impacts while mitigating the risk of wildfires, the State should focus its rebuilding efforts on enhancing community energy resilience. By prioritizing local planning for effective, shovel-ready infrastructure projects and pairing near-term economic stimulus and local job creation with long-term greenhouse gas reduction, community energy resilience ensures wildfire risk reduction remains at the forefront during these times.

We believe it is vital that the State adopt the following policies and approaches in support of this vision, particularly emphasizing equity across communities of color:

Emphasize community-centric, local resilience planning

The devastating financial impact of the 2019 Public Safety Power Shutoff events underscored the importance of energy resilience to California communities. Planning for clean, long-term energy resilience requires thinking from a community-wide perspective rather than just a facility-specific basis. Furthermore, it necessitates thinking about life-cycle costs and long-term local health and financial benefits over the lifespan of the project. Local governments lead the charge for new energy infrastructure, ensuring local land use and planning requirements are met. Therefore, local governments need to work with their residents and partner with community-based organizations to make engaged and educated clean energy decisions that create resilience solutions and meet the needs identified by communities. By empowering local governments to take the lead on local energy resilience planning to deploy clean local energy resources, these community-centric solutions will push for health, safety, and financial security during the inevitable wildfire season and resulting Public Safety Power Shutoff events.

Leverage microgrids to serve critical facilities, support clean emergency back-up power, and address community resilience needs

Microgrids fortify resilience in local communities by creating critical, energy-secure facilities during Public Safety Power Shutoff events and other disasters. Developing microgrids and the associated infrastructure will stimulate economic growth by creating new, local jobs, helping restore the more than 100,000 clean energy jobs lost in California since the beginning of COVID-19. Even more, microgrids will deploy clean energy services that provide direct energy and financial savings for these facilities.

Lastly, microgrids will help reduce the need for new expensive, climate-vulnerable transmission lines that pose a significant wildfire risk. To support the growth of microgrids and ensure their availability during times of greatest need, California should guarantee there is non-discriminatory access to the grid, such as by exempting community microgrids that serve critical facilities from departing load charges. Additionally, California should assure financing for a School Resilience Initiative that supports the installation of resilient clean energy resources, such as photovoltaic solar systems paired with energy storage, at K-12 public schools in areas at risk of power outages due to wildfires or public safety power shutoffs. These recommendations will provide local communities with safe and reliable access to power and address community-identified resilience needs.

Commit to Californias clean transportation transition to reduce the States largest source of greenhouse gases 

While wildfires remain an imminent threat this summer, the long-term greenhouse gas and air pollution impacts from the transportation sector cannot be overlooked. In fact, emissions from transportation in California are higher than those from wildfires, especially in communities disproportionately burdened by air pollution and socio-economic challenges. Community energy resilience encompasses planning for Public Safety Power Shutoff events as well as climate change, and California now more than ever cannot waver from its ambitious clean transportation goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2030. The State’s ZEV programs have streamlined consumer access to incentives for electric vehicles and created shovel-ready ZEV infrastructure projects. These projects are especially important as California is striving to stimulate its economy and create career-track quality jobs across the green economy supply chain. California therefore needs to continue its commitment to an equitable clean transportation transition to ensure progress towards State goals on economic development, emissions reductions, and public health. This will ensure California will continue leading on climate policy while creating jobs, elevating equity, improving air quality, and cultivating the growing ZEV market.

In closing, community energy resilience provides a sustainable, local path to economic recovery and public health using clean, local energy resources and zero-emission vehicles that help the State stay steadfast in its climate and air quality goals. California needs to prioritize these initiatives and target programs that have immediately available funding for deploying resilient infrastructure, particularly in disadvantaged and low-income communities of color, as well as tribal communities. Only then will the State be truly and adequately prepared for California’s upcoming wildfire season.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this critical issue and thank you again for your leadership during this challenging time. Please contact Raghav Murali at Center for Sustainable Energy ( and Kurt Johnson at The Climate Center ( with any questions related to these recommendations and to discuss specific items in more detail. We look forward to working together to develop a 21st century electricity system in California that is clean, affordable, resilient, equitable, and safe.


Raghav Murali, Center for Sustainable Energy

Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center

Susannah Churchill, Vote Solar

Allie Detrio, Microgrid Resources Coalition

Craig Lewis, Clean Coalition

Bill Magavern, Coalition for Clean Air

Liore Milgrom-Gartner, CA Interfaith Power & Light

Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty, Wholly H2O

Barbara Sattler, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Jack Eidt, SoCal 350 Climate Action

Rebecca Elliot, Indivisible San Jose

Linda Krop, Environmental Defense Center

Jessica Craven, Feminists in Action

Ruth Richardson, Rooted in Resistance

Jennifer Tanner, Indivisible California Green Team

Mala Wingerd, Normal Heights Indivisible

Susan Morgan, Indivisible Marin

Sophia Mahoney-Rohr, Indivisible Peninsula/CA-14

CC:    The Honorable Gavin Newsom, Governor of California

The Honorable Toni Atkins, Senate President Pro Tempore The Honorable Anthony Rendon, Speaker of the Assembly The Honorable Holly Mitchell, Senate Budget Committee Chair The Honorable Phil Ting, Assembly Budget Committee Chair

The Honorable Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary for Environmental Protection Ana Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary, Governor’s Office